Dark Delphi cloud hovers over area

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, May 22, 2011

ABC news Friday night reported on better than expected jobgrowth, which further points to the signs that brighter economicdays are ahead.

The report singled out a group of states that the latest figuresshow are leading the pack in job growth, according to recentfigures. Mississippi was one of those states.

As we reported in Friday’s edition, April’s sales tax receiptsagain increased, showing signs of local consumer optimism. Asmentioned elsewhere on this page, further signs of the improvedeconomy are reflected in the completion of Pike National Bank’s newlocation Highway 51 North. On Monday morning a groundbreaking willbe held along side the new bank where Region 8 Mental HealthServices will begin construction on their new facility. Between thetwo facilities over $9 million is being invested.

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Further good news for the local economy is the renovation of anhistoric landmark in the center of downtown. Local investors arebuilding a hotel and apartment facility that will add to thealready revitalized downtown area.

Residents in the East Lincoln and Lloyd Star area residents arealso seeing positive signs, as a regional retailer announced plansto build stores to serve area residents.

All are good positive signs that point for better times ahead.Each project means new jobs and more consumer confidence, whichbrings even more jobs.

However, for all the positive local news for this area ofSouthwest Mississippi, a dark cloud hovers over the area – a verydark cloud. A thunder cloud that very well may wipe out consumerconfidence and derail our local economic recovery.

Over the past several weeks, a contract dispute has developedbetween the union and management at Delphi. A dispute that mayresult in the closure of the plant along with the loss of itsapproximately 250 jobs!

It is our understanding the line workers average between $13 and$15 per hour plus benefits. Little details are known, as unionleaders and management are holding their cards very closely to thevest.

Friday afternoon a document was delivered to The DAILY LEADERthat purports to detail a comparison of the current and proposedcompensation packages. However, we have no way to verify itsauthenticity and without someone to explain, we do not understandwhat it means.

While no official announcement of a pending plant closure hasbeen filed, information has leaked that severance packages havebeen prepared and an October date for closing of the plant is onthe table.

No one can dispute the union’s efforts to better its wages andbenefits for its members. It is their right and the union’s purposeof existence.

At the same time no one can dispute Delphi’s efforts to controlits labor costs. After all, it was just some 18 months ago thatDelphi emerged from bankruptcy!

We understand both parties are still talking and a May 15deadline has been extended. That is good news.

However, from our vantage point, we see that Delphi has twooptions – find a solution with the local labor union or close theplant.

For local workers, they really have only one good option!Unemployment benefits only last so long and the reality must beunderstood that the chance of replacement jobs, much lessbetter-paying ones, will be few and far between. Also to beunderstood, a plant to replace Delphi will be years in coming, ifat all.

We should all be reminded of the old saying, “a bird in the handis worth two in the bush.”

After two and a half long years, things are starting to brightenand the future looks good. Unfortunately, this Delphi situationcould change everything – very quickly.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602,or send e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.